London Day 8 – This way to the Ministry of Magic

This was our last day in London and my last full day in the UK after two months. It was a really amazing experience to work and live abroad for a summer and I’m really grateful for this opportunity. 

We spent our last day on a tour scoping out more Harry Potter spots and going walking around the shopping districts before everything closed at 6. 

This way to the Ministry of Magic
This way to the Ministry of Magic

The Harry Potter walking tour we took went to a lot of major tourist places that were significant to the films as well as some more hidden areas around the city. In addition to the landmarks that the Death Eaters destroy, we saw 2 different entrances to both the Ministry of Magic and Diagon Alley which were used in various movies. This picture is where the telephone booth was located and the toilets are somewhere in the City of London near Leadenhall Market. 

Remy is going to Hogwarts too!
Remy is going to Hogwarts too!

The tour ended up at King’s Cross Station that has a fake Platform 9 3/4 for people to take pictures with. The queue was about 45 min long but I did eventually get to take my picture running into the wall. There were two little girls who brought their own stuffed animals to take with them to Hogwarts and they were so cute! There’s also a Harry Potter store nearby the wall with the cart that sells slightly different stuff than the store at the studio tour.  

Lego bus stop outside of Hamley's
Lego bus stop outside of Hamleys

After attempting to go to Hogwarts, we headed down to Oxford Street to get some shopping in before we left. We went to Selfridge’s that looked nothing like the PBS show about the department store as well as Hamleys which is a giant toy store located along Regent Street. The store was packed with families looking for toys and the aisles were full of employees demonstrating toys. I wish I knew about this place earlier!

Last dinner!
Last dinner!

For the last dinner we headed back to South Kensington and had pasta at a restaurant called Loves by the museums. Each table had a tablet to order your meal from and it even allowed you to choose between al dente and soft pasta. It wasn’t exactly British but it was a good way to finish off my two months in the UK!

 

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London Day 2 – Royalty and Rock

On the second day we took an open top bus tour, saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, went on a walking tour of spots made famous by various rock musicians around London, and visited Kensington Palace. 

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

The open top bus tour took us to pretty much every major site around the city. We saw everything from Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge. The whole tour took about 2 hours but it can vary depending on traffic. This would be really good if you only have a few days to visit London. 

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

We got to Buckingham Palace about 15 min before the changing of the guard started and the place was already super packed. The area to actually see the changing of the guard was completely full and the only available viewing spots were alongside the road leading up to the palace. Apparently it’s really popular in the summer because that’s the only time the full ceremony takes place with the band and the horses and everything. We could hear them playing “Thriller” inside the palace gates but it was way too crowded to go up and watch. 

The Spirit of Soho
The Spirit of Soho

A lot of sites related to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are hidden away in London Alleyways. The studio used to record “Hey Jude” is actually not Abbey Road but one in Soho. This mural is called “The Spirit of Soho” and if you come on the hour you can see Karl Marx drinking a can of Coca Cola. 

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace

Our last stop was Kensington Palace which is now the home of Will and Kate. Unfortunately you can only see the older parts of the Palace though. I left pretty confused about who was related to who and what the royal lineage was. There were so many different parts of the palace attributed to so many different queens and kings. 

San Francisco Embarcadero Area Walking Tour

I did this route when some friends came to visit in May and I thought I’d share it. Funny enough I hadn’t been to some of these famous landmarks in the three years I lived in the Bay. Be forewarned that this is about 2.5-3 miles of walking and contains lots of steep ups and downs. 

Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery
Raclette from Cowgirl Creamery

Starting at the Embarcadero BART, walk down towards the water to the ferry building. If you go on a Saturday there’s one of the best farmers’ markets in the Bay. Inside the building are a bunch of shops and vendors. Go to Cowgirl Creamery and get one of these plates of melted, toasted cheese deliciousness from the cart outside the shop and you will not regret it.  

Coit Tower
Coit Tower

After exiting the farmer’s market, take a right and walk down past the Exploratorium (see this post) and cross the street at Pier 23. Walk through the park and towards the hill up Greenwich St. and be prepared for a bit of a climb. This leads you to the majestic Coit Tower and yields awesome views of the Bay! You can’t really see the Golden Gate from here but it’s a nice workout. The tower was closed for maintenance when we went but you can go up it too. 

Lombard Street
Lombard Street

While walking back down the hill on the Bay side from Coit Tower, you’ll come across Lombard Street. Walk straight down the street and you’ll come across the famous crooked road. This place is packed with tourists so I’d really recommend walking instead of driving this thing. There’s stairs on the side where you can observe rental cars slowly inching down the hill in zig zag fashion.  

Boudin at Fisherman's Wharf
Boudin at Fisherman’s Wharf

At the top of the street, take a right and that leads you back to Ghiradelli and Fisherman’s Wharf. This street is a pretty steep downhill and follows the cable car track as well. You can either stop for a sundae or do what we did and get a clam chowder in a bread bowl at the Boudin Factory. There’s also an In n’ Out but due to it always being super crowded with tourists the quality is pretty lacking compared to most other locations. 

You can either walk the two or so miles back or take the F street car (looks like a tin can) from the stop on Beach St. and Jones St. near Walgreens. This will take you all the way back to the BART and Union Square. It tends to get really crowded so catching it from that first stop is your best bet for getting a seat. 

Happy travels!